Student Voice Blog | Cultural Differences

Hello, everyone! My name is Brian, and I am now studying at York School in Monterey, California, USA. I have been studying in York since the eighth grade and am currently a Junior student. Today, I will tell you about some cultural differences between China and United States that I had in the past years during studying abroad. This way I hope other students who are planning to study abroad can refer you to my experience. Hope this article can help them feel prepared and ready when arriving in the US!


Traffic Commuting Differences:

I’m a car lover, so I want to talk about transportation too. First of all, if you don’t live in a big city, commuting around will be difficult. In my opinion, public transportation in my city at least is worse than China in my opinion. As far as the city of Monterey is concerned, there are nothing but few scattered buses. Generally, people who don’t have a car can either ride an Uber (expensive) or ride a bicycle (you can’t go far). Therefore, most people in the United States, whether rich or not, have cars. Then there are generally no pedestrians walking on the sidewalk, firstly, because people here drive wherever they go, and secondly because the streets of the United States are not as safe as China.

Speaking of safety, I don’t want to say anything scary, but everyone should know that American citizens can carry guns. So far, I would like to suggest that students, no matter where they are in the United States, try not to wander on the streets alone at night. Taking an uber and getting home safe is more important than anything else. If you have to walk, you’d better walk with a few friends. Don’t walk alone. This is very different from the streets of China.


American Tip Culture

Let me first imagine a scene: you just got off the plane and then you were hungry. You take a taxi to a restaurant for dinner. When you check out after dinner, you will find that there are several lines at the bottom of the receipt: “Tips: 12% 15% 20%.” What I’m talking about here is the culture of tipping. You usually use those percentages multiplied by the money for your meal to tip. In fact, it’s not just restaurants that have this habit. You usually see people tip wherever they go. For example, the little follower who plays golf will receive a tip, the person who washes your car will receive a tip, and the Uber driver will also (pay on the APP). You may think that I have to pay, and I had paid, why do I have to pay again? But this is the culture here.

It is the unspoken rule of the serving industry in America, and we also need to understand the logic behind it~ That is the tipping culture here as lots of waiters at restaurants depend lots on the tip from their customer. Because many of them are only getting minimum wage and need extra help from us. Of course, when it comes to catering, you also have your other rights as a customer. If you think the food served to you is too bad (the steak is old, or the coffee is light, or the rice is choking), you can ask the waiter to return the current plate and ask for a new plate. Although you have eaten or drunk the current food or drink, you can still go back and let them make a new one. You don’t need to be embarrassed. You can tip people to show your appreciation and it would be greatly appreciated by them too!


Daily Social Life

First of all, I have a few American friends around me who are very nice. After four years with them, I see some cultural and ideological differences between us and the native students. First of all, you may be afraid that there is something racist between your classmates. In general, schools today are generally respectful and anti-racist. If you are new to the United States, you might worry that local students exclude you. That might happen because not everyone is nice. But it is for sure that good and caring people are the majority, and I encourage you to find a friend group that treats you with love. Secondly, no one’s communication skills in a second language is excellent when they arrive in the States. But I encourage everyone to try to get out of your comfort zone and talk to new people. Chat and hangout with different classmates, you will find your own group of friends or a small companion or so. It would be helpful if you do all this at the beginning of your trip or you wait a semester, and it will be difficult to join their circle later. Make friends, find people with similar personalities, no matter if there is a language barrier or not.


Story Time

A fun story with my American friends: I remember that the first time I went to play at their house, I sat down at the door and asked his mother, “aunt, do you have slippers? His mother smiled and said they don’t wear slippers at home. Yes, in many American families, outdoor shoes can be worn at home too. There have even been occasions when I looked directly at my comrades sitting on the bed or sofa with their shoes, feet on the bed and the sofa. This culture that I have not yet accepted, but it is fine. Because I am not American, I can choose what and what not to learn and adapt.


Want to talk about this more or join other international students? Feel free to join the student council! Email [email protected] for more information.